There are so many types of Italian bread to pick from, you will feel spoiled for choice. From ciabatta, through focaccia to pizza, Italian bread will take you on a gastronomical discovery of a lifetime.
We love travelling around Italy, as it is one of our favourite European countries to spend the holidays in. We believe that the best way to visit Italy is by driving trough all its 20 different regions, in search of local delicacies. Since we are bread lovers, this comprehensive guide will tell you about the most exciting types of Italian bread you can sample during your next visit.
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Types of Italian Bread
When going to an Italian restaurant, you might have noticed that there is always a type of Italian bread served to you, depending on the dish you order. When you sit down, you might receive a type of Italian bread as an appetizer, together with some olive oil and sea salt. That's a very traditional way of starting the dinner. In this guide, we will talk about different types of Italian bread, their history and their uses. We will then use this as a reference point and create some of the types of bread mentioned and share the recipes as we go along.
Babà rustico is a traditional Neapolitan rustic bread. Once prepared, this savoury bread is usually filled with cold meats like salami or prosciutto and cold cheeses like delicious parmesan. Unlike many types of Italian bread, this is a soft dough which requires a stand up mixed with a hook or cake attachment. The result should be a soft dough, which resembles a thick cake mixture. It is transferred to a specific Italian babà mould and baked in it.
If you love fruit bread then this the right type of Italian bread for you.
The bisciola also called panettone Valtellinese, is the typical dessert from Valtellina (Lombardy region). Bisciola is a loaf with dried fruit (figs and raising), nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts), and it contains butter and eggs. Some recipes also call for honey. Ok, this may not be the type of Italian bread you want to consume if you are on a diet but this is a gorgeous fruit bread consumed usually during the holidays.
From 2013 Bisciola is a protected by the Collective Geographical Mark (MCG), which means that this leavened sweet bread prepared can only be produced in Valtellina, with Italian and local ingredients, following a recipe that has been handed down for generations. So next time you find yourself in the region, make sure to try a bite from this delicious Bisciola.
Biscotti is a tricky one because technically this is a biscuit. However, as per the definition of bread: a type of food made of flour, water, and yeast mixed together and baked. Could we say biscotti is a type of Italian bread? Well, we'd love to tell you its story either way. Then it's for you to decide.
Biscotti is an Italian almond biscuit which originated from Tuscany, in the city of Prato.
Biscotti di Prato are actually known by the name cantuccini in Tuscany. The pastry chef Antonio Mattei rediscovered the original recipe in the nineteenth century, and his variation of is what is now accepted as the traditional recipe for biscotti. Under the old sign of the manufacturer "Biscottificio Antonio Mattei," you will see written: "Manufacturers of cantuccini". It is believed that locals still refer to biscotti as cantuccini because of this very sign.
Biscotti are made with flour, sugar, eggs, pine nuts; and almonds that are not roasted or skinned. The traditional recipe uses no form of yeast or fat. It is then cooked twice. When you go visit Tuscany make sure to get a pack of biscotti which are usually sold with another lovely local specially called bruttiboni. Want a tip? Enjoy biscotti with a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Brioche col tuppo
Brioche col tuppo or also known as Brioche Siciliano, is a typical snack or breakfast bread in Sicily. Sometimes, you will find stuffed with ice cream in places like Catania. Brioche Sicilians is a soft and fragrant type of Italian bread which can be enjoyed on its own. If you'd like it for breakfast, enjoy it with coffee or a delightful cup of tea.
But before we continue, you must ask yourself? What exactly is a Brioche col tuppo? It's a brioche with a little round top, called tuppo. You can remove the tuppo and eat it first, then dig into the brioche.
To make this traditional Sicilian types of Italian bread you should use Italian flour type 00 and strong Manitoba flour.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Buccellato di Lucca
The Buccellato di Lucca derives its name from the Latin word Bucella which means "bite". For ancient Romans buccellatum was the round format of bread or a crown buccellae. Originally from Lucca, Buccellato is eaten all year round although you will find it the star attraction during September when there are demonstrations of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Crossbow.
The Buccellato di Lucca has a ring shape and you will find it on Luccan tables during Sundays when locals bring it home after attending mass. It has been produced since the late nineteenth century so there is history in every single bite you take.
The Buccellato is not packaged but sold fresh on the same day as it's made which makes it irresistible and delicious. It also means you must visit beautiful Lucca to try it. It will first enchant you with its bronze colour. Then, once you take a bite from this delicious sweet treat you will meet a slight crust, followed by a soft interior, dressed in sultanas, raisins and delicate flavours of aniseed. It is consumed with wine, vin santo, cream and coffee, ricotta and rum.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
This is a gorgeous vegan type of Italian bread you will all love. Cecìna or Farinata as many refer to it, it is believed to have originated in Genoa which then became a typical Ligurian food. Other suggest that it originated along the Tuscan coast. It is difficult to know for sure which story is true.
If you love a little legend, then the story has it that Roman soldiers used to roast chickpea flour on their shield. I think food has a beautiful way of making history sound a lot more enchanting.
Cecìna is a pizza-like flatbread, made with a simple batter consisting of water, olive oil and chickpea flour. You can sometimes find it with rosemary as well. It's beloved thanks to its thin and crisp texture, sort of like a healthy (yet delicious) pancake.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Everybody knows this type of Italian bread: ciabatta is renowned internationally. This delightful loaf of bread was created in 1982 by a baker in Verona. Have you ever had a panini? Know that a traditional Italian panini is a toasted sandwich made from small loaves of ciabatta.
The ciabatta was created as a clear response to the popular French baguettes. Now, if you taste both, you will see, smell and taste the actual difference between the two loaves of bread. But what's important is that both the mighty baguette and the Italian ciabatta become incredibly popular and beloved around the world.
The ciabatta was first produced in 1982 by Arnaldo Cavallari, who called the bread ciabatta polesana after Polesine, the area he lived in. However, nowadays there are several varieties of ciabatta with many regions having their own variation of the original recipe. For example, if you visit the gorgeous area of Lake Como, you will indulge in a superb crisp crust and a soft interior. Go to Tuscany and you will sample a stronger, crisper crust. Perhaps, our favourite ciabatta is from Rome, seasoned with marjoram, a herb which I regularly use in my kitchen.
Want to try a specular ciabatta that has a special name? Ciabatta al latte...no, that's not ciabatta with a latte, but a variation of ciabatta with added milk to the recipe.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Meaning candle in Italian, this is a type of Italian bread you will absolutely adore. Ciriola is very special to us, because it is the first type of Italian bread we ever tasted during our holiday to Rome. This is a traditional Roman bread with a crusty exterior and a tender crumb. You will find the shape elongated at the ends. It looks beautiful and tastes fantastic.
Because of its crusty exterior, you can use this type of bread to make croutons from it the next day. And it's pretty perfect for Panzanella in my opinion.
Ciupeta (Coppia ferrarese)
Ciupeta is a type of sourdough known for its unusual twisted shape. It originates from Ferrara, Italy and it has a PGI status under the EU Law. This interesting type of Italian bread is known to have been around since 1287.
The first known mention to a bread similar to ciupeta is from 1536 when the Duke of Este, Cristoforo da Messisbugo, was offered a type of woven bread called "pane ritorto".
As with many types of foods, each traditional and authentic dish has a cultural impact on the region. Ciupeta is now a staple in the culture of the city of Ferrera, alongside a well-known type of local salami. While it became well known in 2001 when it required the PGI status, since, many named it the best bread in the world and the "Ferrara gift to the world" [Bacchelli, Riccardo (2015). Il mulino del Po (in Italian). Milan: Mondadori. p. 3.]Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Colomba di Pasqua
Columbia di Pasqua is a sweet type of Italian bread, usually in the shape of a dove. Colomba di Pasqua literally means Easter Dove in Italian. If you love panettone and pandoro, you will absolutely adore Colomba di Pasqua, because it's the cross between the two.
This is by no means a vegan bread as it contains eggs and butter. Once you take a bite you will enjoy candied peels which I personally love. The dove-shaped type of Italian bread is usually topped with pearl sugar and almonds. You might even be able to find chocolate topped Columbia di Pasqua.
Colomba di Pasqua was commercialised by a baker and businessman in Milan.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
No, we are not talking about the well-known brand of ice cream but about a super special type of Italian bread. One which I absolutely adore: the Italian version of the French croissant. Cornetto means little horn in Italian and it is different than the croissant around the world thanks to its softer consistency and less butter content.
You will find cornetto filled with all sort of cremes and pastes, jams and chocolates. You will find it in coffee houses in Italy and it's best enjoyed with a strong espresso on the side. This is the best breakfast you can possible have in Italy and it's actually one of the most common, also.
The recipe became popular in Veneto, after 1683. One thing to note: in Southern and Central Italy it is called cornetto, whereas in the North you will find it under the name "brioche".Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
If you love French baguette you will love Filone. Filone is the everyday type of Italian bread, one you can purchase everywhere and goes with everything. It's easy to make and it's the normal type of yeast bread. To make this you will need a baking stone to recreate this bread. A baking stone makes the exterior of the bread crustier.
When someone asks you what type of Italian bread is your favourite? It's usually pizza, ciabatta or the gorgeous focaccia. We love focaccia and we make it at home on a regular basis. Focaccia is similar in style with pizza dough although focaccia with rosemary is the most common type, usually served as an antipasto or snack.
Focaccia is a flat type of bread, although the consistency varies from region to region. The recipe is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine although the basic recipe is believed to have originated with the Etruscans.
What I believe it's beautiful about this type of Italian bread is the variation you will find, throughout your travels around the country. You will encounter gorgeous biscuit-like focaccia in Camogli or super soft and fluffy cake-like focaccia in Voltri.
Try several versions and let us know which one if your favourite. We sure love fluffier focaccia.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
In addition to the Colomba di Pasqua there are other types of Italian breads which are considered Easter delicacies.
Fragguno is one of them. Born in Calabria, Fragguno is a salty bread usually filled with savoury items like Italian salami, eggs and cheese. This bread is specially prepared for Easter Sunday.
Friselle is a beautiful type of Italian bread which originated in Puglia. Friselle Bread is double baked and its main ingredients are yeast, water and flour.
The secret behind creating the perfect Friselle is to bake it in the oven until the dough is well risen, then cut in half, crosswise and baked back in the oven until it becomes perfect and crisp.
Friselle Bread is known for it's beautiful round shape with a hole in the middle. Imagine Friselle as being an open bagel. It can be served with fresh tomatoes on top.
Wondering where you might have seen Friselle bread before? Turns out it is quite common in Greece and certain Greek island.
The gnocco fritto (also known as crescentina) is a type of Italian bread which comes from the Emilia region of Italy. You will very likely find it sliced in diamond shapes, then fried and served with cheese and salami.
There are times when you gnocco fritto is served as an appetizer or as a main. During the frying this bread puffs up beautifully. While in Bologna this is seen as a savoury bread with prosciutto, in Tuscany, this type of Italian bread is dusted with salt or sugar. Sometimes, you may find Tuscan salamy incorporated into the dough.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
We love grissini so much, we stared making our own Italian grissini at home. It's one of those snacks we love purchasing from the supermarket but nothing compares with the homemade version: fresher, tastier, better in all ways.
Grissini or breadsticks are believed to have originated in 1643 in a town outside of Turin. However, other suggest grissini is a Piedmont invention from the 17th century, invented by a baker from Turin.
With so many stories and possibilities, it's difficult to pick where grissini actually come from. But one thing is certain: grissini is a perfect example of a tasty type of Italian bread, taken to a new level. Crisp on the outside, packed with incredible flavours of olive oil and rosemary, breadsticks are a must when visiting Italy.
Pane di Laterza is a traditional bread of Laterza from Southeastern Italy. While mainly produced here, you may be able to find in neighbouring municipalities in Italy also. It is considered a Prodotto Agroalimentare Tradizionale (a Traditional Food Product).
What we love about this type of Italian bread is that it is baked in the wood oven. It's normally baked with olive wood or some other natural aromatic products (think seeds of apricots or almonds). The bread is usually large, weighing between 2-4 kg. You'll indulge in a crisp brown crust, followed by a beautifully soft and aromatic interior.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Michetta (also known as rosetta bread)
Michetta has its own unique story (like most types of Italian bread). It is said that Michetta originated in Lombardy during the Austrian rule. Austrians introduced many of their own products to Italy, including Kaisersemmel which is bread in the shape of a small rose.
Italians created their own version, softer on the inside which was meant to last longer.
The michetta has a bulged shaped and in my opinion, it resembles a sort of raised turtle shell.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
The muffuletta is a type of round Sicilian sesame bread. In the US in the state of Louisiana, Italian immigrants created a sandwich called muffuletta.
We know that the muffuletta originated in Sicily whereas the US sandwich was created in 1906 by a Sicilian immigrant. Whether you decide to visit Sicily or the US you must try both types of muffuletta and tell us which one is your favourite. The sandwich version consists of a muffuletta loaf, cut horizontally and stuffed with delicious olive salad, salami, ham, cheese and mortadella.
You can have it cold or toasted.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
A panbrioche is a type of Italian bread similar to a brioche. There are many varieties you can find in Italy, but the one we tried was a panbrioche dolce. A brioche is normally a super soft bread with an extremely fluffy interior. It's usually not vegan (although vegan options started to appear on the market), made with milk and butter.
It is believed that the first time the term brioche was used, was in France in 1404. Brioche is a popular type of bread and pretty much every nation has its own version.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Pandoro is a traditional sweet type of Italian bread, usually popular during the winter holidays. You will recognise it thanks to its frustum shape and its eight pointed star section. It looks gorgeous, especially when dusted with vanilla scented icing sugar which is said to resemble the snowy peaks of the majestic Italian Alps.
Pandora literally means golden bread in Italian. This type of Italian bread appeared sometimes in remote time and it is believed to have been invented thanks to some ancient art of breadmaking. In the Middle Ages, for example, Pandoro was eaten by the rich. Back then, the poor could never afford sweetbreads as sugar was very rare and expensive.
The first text which describes what we clearly identify as pandoro dates to the 18th century. The dessert was developed in the kitchens of the Venetian aristocracy. It was in Verona where pandoro was developed and perfected.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Pane Carasau means toasted bread. This is a Sardinian flatbread, characterised by its thin, round metre wide shape and crisp bite. This recipe is believed to be very ancient indeed and this type of Italian bread was conceived for shepherds
Pane carasau can last up to one year if it's stored correctly in its dry format. However, you can enjoy it dry or wet.
According to a paragraph from Wikipedia, remains of this type of Italian bread, pane carasau, were found in archaeological excavations of nuraghes (traditional Sardinian stone buildings) and it was therefore already eaten on the island prior to 1000 BC.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Pane di Altamura DOP
Pane di Altamura is a type of Italian naturally leavened bread from the Altamura area of the Provincia di Bari.
Pane di Altamura was granted PDO in 2003. By law, Pane di Altamura must undertake some strict baking methodology and engage in the use of a special variety of durum wheat, all locally produced only. The final crust must have at least 3mm thickness which means you will enjoy a nice crisp bite.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Pane di Matera
The bread of Matera is a type of Italian bread obtained by a traditional method, typically used by bakers of the province of Matera. Matera bread must exclusively use the bran of hard wheat.
Pane di Matera has always been a typical food of the Matera area, a traditional cereal cultivation area. Furthermore, this bread always played an important cultural and economical role for the region. On the bread, you will see three scores which are meant to represent the Holy Trinity. In 2020 the Perrone bakery in Matera won the "best bread in Italy" prize.
This is not so much a type of Italian bread but more like how to use a specific type of bread to make it into a dish. Pane Frattau uses the base of pane carasau which is Sardinia's most famed bread (as discussed above). Then, it is topped with tomato sauce, a poached egg and pecorino cheese.
The dish is pretty delicious and it showcases how you can use simple ingredients to transform them into something epic.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Pane Napoletana is the symbol of Naples. It is also known as Pane Cafone. This is a traditional peasant bread from Naples known for its perfect crust and high crumb interior. If you love a thick and crunchy crust then this is the right type of Italian bread for you.
Traditionally, this type of bread was kneaded in "mattara" which is a wooden container used to work the flour before cooking it in the wood fire ovens. The interior of the bread has this perfect straw colour, enveloped in a dark, beautiful crust.Picture sourced from Flickr
Pane sciocco (or Pane Toscano outside of Tuscany) is a type of Italian bread usually found in, you guessed it, Tuscany. This type of bread is baked in a wood-fired oven. It is usually quite a large loaf of bread with a crisp crust. You will find all sort of artisan version during your trip around Tuscany.
Sciocco means without salt and all you need is one bite to realise it: once you bite into the crispy crust, you will meet a slightly sweet and yeasty interior. But then, no salt. It might not be everyone's favourite as salt is known to bring out the flavours in food but this type of Italian bread has been eaten in Tuscany for many centuries.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
One of the most well-known types of Italian bread, pretty much everyone tasted panettone at one point or another.
Panettone is an Italian type of sweet bread originally from Milan enjoyed during the Christmas holidays. You will find available at Christmas markets all around the world. It's well recognizable thanks to its cupola shape and a normal, standard panettone usually weight over 1 kg. To make a panettone takes several days. The dough has to be cured for several days in order to obtain those delightful fluffy characters of the interior, which we all love.
Panettone comes in many variations as well. While panettone contains candied orange, citron, lemon zest and raising some like it plain or with chocolate.
It's not just the panettone which comes in different versions but the way it's consumed also. It is usually served in wedge shapes with hot beverages by its side. But in some regions of Italy you will indulge in panettone served with crema di mascarpone.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Panfocaccia is a kind of Italian bread that is a cross between a bread and focaccia. Expect a soft and tasty dough which has been leavened for 13 hours.
What is interesting about panfocaccia is that although it keeps the versatility of normal bread, it has the shape and flavour which is much more similar to focaccia.
It is assumed that this recipe has Ligurian origins despite being widespread and appreciated in most areas of Italy. Panfocaccia is excellent to serve as an aperitif especially if accompanied by cold cuts and cheese board. You will find it served in many restaurants.
Penia is a sweet type of Italian bread, traditionally prepared during the Easter holidays. It comes in different shapes and it is usually made with sugar, butter, eggs, anise seeds and lemons. You will find it as it is or something drizzled with icing for some added sweetness.
I discovered Penia bread by complete coincide during one of my trips to the Italian countryside. When I went to the local bakery to purchase some fresh bread, I pointed at one of the loaves which looked perfectly normal and through it will be a great start of the day with some jam and vegan spread on the side. Turns out, the shape deceived me as one bite revealed its sweet, citrusy and anise flavours to me.
Piadina is a thin Italian flatbread, typically prepared in Emilia-Romagna Region. What we love about it is that it is cooked on a terracotta dish. Of course you can also find it cooked on flat pans or electric griddles but the traditional way of cooking is the most interesting to us.
The Piadina has been added to the list of the traditional regional food products of Italy of the Emilia-Romagna Region. You stuff this thin bread with items and eat it more or less like a Mexican tortilla.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Pizza Bianca Bread
Pizza Bianca is a type of Italian bread that can be found all over the country. Pizza Bianca is usually an appetizer in many restaurants where this bread is served as an appetizer with olive oil on the side or made into a delightful and tasty sandwich.
Pay close attention though, as Pizza Bianca may deceive you a little. At first glance, pizza Bianca looks similar to focaccia. But that's not really the case. Pizza Bianca is made with a lean dough and baked much like neapolitan pizza.
While pizza Bianca is usually made with the no-knead method, you will need a hot stone for your oven to replicate it at home.
Pizza di Pasqua
The pizza di Pasqua or Easter Pizza as per its translation is a type of savoury Italian bread made in many areas of central Italy. The name of the bread is very deceiving as this is in no way a pizza but shaped more like a panettone. It is usually served on Easter lunch and the leftovers are taken for a picnic during the Easter Monday.
As with pretty much all types of Italian bread, Pizza di Pasqua has its own story and tradition. Story has it that Pizza di Pasqua was first made during the Middle Ages by the nuns of the Poor Clares monastery of Santa Maria Maddalena at Serra de' Conti near Ancona.
If savoury Easter bread is not for you, rest assured that there is a sweet variant of the Pizza di Pasqua also.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Sgabeo is a typical food from Lunigiana. It is a type of Italian bread which is cut into strips and fried. You can eat it as it is or fill it with cheese and cold cuts. During your travels, you will find it sold as a sweet version with pastry cream and chocolate.
We all love a good bite of fried bread, although it's not the healthiest it's definitely a tasty treat. Here's an interesting fact: back in the days it used to be made with using cornflour and eaten by field workers during lunch. Nowadays is more of a festival treat made with normal wheat flour.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
The strazzata is a speciality of Avigliano, a medieval village in the province of Potenza. It is a type of Italian bread characterised by its flatness and circular shape with a hole in the centre. It is shaped by hand. It is normally sliced horizontally and filled with all sort of cheese and cold cuts, as well as omelette or even vegetable stew. But you can find it sliced like a piece of pie and served on its own.
You will find it as a delightful street food usually sold at bakeries throughout festivities held in August in Stagliuzzo.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Taralli is a sweet or savoury ring-shaped snack usually found in Southern Italy. You can find them sugar-glazed or decorated with poppy seed, sesame or even garlic. If you buy a sweet or plain version or Taralli, it is customary that you dunk it wine. The sweet version can be eaten as it is.
The texture is similar to a breadstick and it is usually boiled before baked.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Torta delle rose
La torta delle rose is a brioche-like cake that is stuffed with buttercream and sugar. What sets it apart is the gorgeous appearance that takes the shape of small rosebuds arranged in a circle.
The cake of roses is a typical dessert bread originated from the city of Mantua and its history seems to date back to the 1400s, when it was invented specifically for the wedding of Isabella d'Este with Francesco Gonzaga Duke of Mantua.
While the original is filled with buttercream, you can also fill it with jam or even do it in a savoury style of bread.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Tortano is a traditional type of Italian bread, usually shaped like a crown and filled with eggs, ham and cheese. This is a typical bread from Naples usually eaten during the Easter season.
What is beautiful about a Tortano is that on the outside you will see just a beautiful loaf of bread in the shape of a ring with a hole in the middle. While slightly crusty exterior, you can tell right away that a soft interior awaits: and then the surprise. The traditional Tortano is already filled with everything you need to enjoy a hearty breakfast or lunch.
Outside of Italy, you can find Tortano which is not filled, but that's not as good as the original, of course.Picture sourced from Wikipedia CC.
Vastedda is a type of Italian bread from Sicily used to create a special sandwich. You will definitely find it during your trip to the city of Palermo.
Near Palermo you can find a fried version called Vastedda fritta. This version is recognised as a traditional product. Vastedda is usually sold as street food. Just be sure to check what the filling is, as normally Vastedda involves a local fresh cheese as well as boiled spleen and other organ meats.
These are our favourite types of Italian bread which we cam across one way or another during our trips to Italy. did we forget something or is there a different type of Italian bread which we should include here? Please let us know in the comments section below.